article on the old neighborhood

Just remembered this article from months back. I want to return to my thoughts on the neighborhood and Cornbread. In many ways I return to him and the draft when I read these articles. And I did take a look at an old story I wrote called Cornbread in the Attic based on another Chieftain article I read. This one discusses the history of Bessemer going back around  125 years or so. My class is reading Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz and as I re-read I am having many thoughts to return to the draft I’ve neglected for a while.

http://www.chieftain.com/news/local/pueblo-s-heart-of-steel/article_39aa0c02-4de3-11e0-87c2-001cc4c03286.html

sunday free writing

             Santiago awoke to the still morning. He looked wearily out of his bedding and then the tent and thought about how far away from his familia in Colorado he was. Hundreds of miles, he thought. But what could you do about it? Your legs were filled with the wanderlust.

            He arose this particular morning at seven o’clock. He was a tall and lanky and as he tucked his flannel shirt into his Levis he noticed just how thin he was. Thinned by ‘the habit’ as the Abuelita always referred to it when she spoke of the Abuelito. It was a quiet morning and the snow covered ground seemed flat and silent around him—no wind on the air. The sun was clear and cool in the blue empty sky. He wiped at his face with his leathered hand and then his neck and then ate breakfast.

            After that he began to remember Two Bear’s words and then he very much wanted to be back in Colorado.

inarticulateness

Free writing after a week’s worth of grading and lecturing seems more and more to be an impossible task. In the middle of a Saturday as I decompress and try to relax I do want to get down some ideas. I do still want to work on a more surreal storyline to this “Otherworld” material I was working on. But I also have this idea for an essay about writing—specifically writer’s block. How can I fight the boredom and time wasted and get it all down. I think this because more and more I have the time and ideas but just don’t have the ability to get them down. I type and the work is garbage—I even sense chapter two of the “Otherworld” project thing I want to work on seems very rough to me and requires quite a bit of work. I find myself riddled with self-doubt. I know what I want to say and what trajectory I want the scenes/plot to take but struggle from inarticulateness.

I’ll try to explain: Once my sister asked me to re-write the intro of an essay for her. This was back during the five minutes she was in school. And me being young and stupid and without the integrity I hold today worked on it for her. I gave it back and she was disappointed and critical. I thought this was going to be something wonderful. I thought you were a writer, she said. I can still hear her. And I remember telling myself that maybe I wasn’t a writer. Maybe I was better with homework and grammar than actually expressing something. I remember thinking about that very much. And perhaps that is why I enjoy Richard Hugo so much and his idea that every person—not writer—has a poem inside of them to contribute. I tell that also to my students and I rely on that from time to time through poor drafts and flawed fiction I find myself free writing.

And I remember reading the term inarticulateness from one of my favorite essays on poetry by Donald Hall. I used to give Hall’s essay “The Unsayable Said” to my poetry students. I enjoy how he explains:

All of us can ask directions or remark that it looks like snow. When we wish to embody in language a complex of feelings or sensations or ideas, we fall into inarticulateness; attempting to speak, in the heat of love or argument, we say nothing or we say what we do not intend. Poets encounter inarticulateness as much as anybody, or maybe more: They are aware of the word’s inadequacy because they spend their lives struggling to say the unsayable.

I often tell my students one does not have to be the smartest person on the block to be a writer. Not the most sensitive either. I forget where I stole that from. I also tell my students that part of my theory and pedagogy concerning the teaching of creative writing and perhaps writing in general has everything to do with failing—tripping up and stumbling before finding a more sure footing within a draft. Returning to the work and correcting over and over can be difficult and I believe I struggle with that more than writer’s block. I can write all day and get down draft after draft of similar stories but the inability to express something complex or intricate seems beyond me as well in draft after draft. More thoughts on this perhaps later…

saturday free writing

I often wonder what the Abuelito would think. As I sit at my desk and try to be a writer, an artist. To him it would have been a joke. The Abuelito or Jefito as we all called him rushed to work with his lunch pail and his steelworker’s badge thinking only of work and his duty. His job to produce the mortgage payment every month. There were ball scores and newspaper articles on the union. That was enough. But for him there was no book or text more important than that idea of work. Of doing for your family. There was no ocean of creativity waiting for him within a school’s walls. He left school for work and then for the great war before any of that could affect. The Abuelita or Jefita—which is what he called her—focused on the house and the kitchen. That was her life. Her husband’s life brought from Huerfano to the city and to their home. The home of work and toil where no one sat at desks and typed or where no one worked on text as art. No text but stories always stories. Sometimes I forget. Breakfast nook at dawn with splashing coffee and cigarettes. Ashtrays filled with gray. The stories passed between us and communicated their lives to me.

more rough free writing

Very rough free writing but it felt good to get something down on Santiago and a possible second chapter to this:

The Open Llano

            The next night as Steadfast maneuvered farther through snow and ice the storm doubled in intensity. The mountains and the surrounding pines turned slowly into white blankets, pure and deep, forcing Santiago to slow. The Charro worried and emptied bottle after bottle and his mind began to slow. He wept and cursed his ridiculous life and fortune along the open llano. He considered turning round but the snow covered the ground and created ghostly dark shadows and leaving the man directionless and tired. It was as if someone had carefully arranged the land against the man and his gelding or so the Charro cursed under his breath. His mind ached with crudo thoughts. Then the poor gelding kicked up new blends of earth and whiteness and then Steadfast began to trip throwing Santiago down to rock and sand. The move was violent and shook the man nearly breaking his leg and ankle on rock growing from the mountain. The gelding as brave and true as he was spooked and ran as if the mountainside had wanted the two separated. He cracked his head to the ground and he cried out. He spilled his bottle. His vision whitened out and hour after hour as he struggled to crawl and then walk onto his knees calling out the gelding’s name. The white grew bigger and bigger around the man.

            A white horse stopped beside the Charro Santiago, and for a moment Santiago believed it to be more snow fallen from the great western sky. The horse grew larger and larger. The horse and the man studied one another until Santiago heard Two Bear’s great laugh and voice. Until the man felt Two Bear’s great arms around his waist and torso. The Abuelitos had taught the young man to be patient and days of war and hunger in North Africa had also taught the man patience but the drink and the freezing snow had softened his thoughts.

            What are you doing sleeping in the snow, my boy? Two Bears said. I’ve been stalking you. Waiting for you, my boy. It seems you’ve crossed over.

            The Charro said no words but only hung on Two Bear’s immense arms and strength.

The next morning Santiago found himself in Two Bear’s shelter—his tent and blankets enduring the snow through the night. Two Bears fed the man hot soup and scraps of White Bear’s tortallitas and bits of dried meat. Then he asked the weakened cowboy to explain why he would flee the village no matter the dreams and the advice given to him by the elders.

I tracked you through the snow, Two Bears said as he ate. I must admit I thought your ways with a horse would have left you in better condition. I forget how young you are, Charro. I forget how much you haven’t seen or experienced.

For Christ’s sake, Santiago said. The storm came in on me too damned fast—

I’m not talking of the storm. You ave to make you mind larger than that. It’s been coming for years. It simply caught up with you.

What the hell does that mean?

Sit up, Two Bears said. Let me have a look at you.

Two Bears began to examine the cowboy. Eyes, throat and the top of his head. His solar plexus and then the top of his head.

You are not pure, Cowboy, Two Bears repeated. You are not happy. That’s what brought you to me. Your problem is from the outside.

The large Two Bears pulled a crystal and held it in a make-shift manner to the morning light coming from the tent’s small opening. The hearts, he repeated. You have left this world in order to find the hearts that have been lost to you.

I lost my horse and took a fall, Santiago returned. What the hell are you talking about, Indian.

Santiago. Cowboy, Two Bears said. His immense hands took the man’s collar and shoulder. Then he said: Think of these days as a doorway out of the painful life you find yourself in. A world where nothing is hidden from you. The dead walk amongst us and where we must face our most fearsome outcomes. A spirit world that supports this world—holds this world. You don’t really believe you have nothing to hide from this world do you? You are not a foolish man. This I trust.

What the hell—

You will find what is lost to you in this world, Charro.

Dead people?

Living people. Ones lost to you. Family Friends. Those that are just dead meat and buried to you. Here they are not buried. They live and breathe. They tell secrets and know nothing of your world lost to them. They are at peace and travelling—always travelling on our thoughts and whispers. The see lies and truths. Truths forgotten and dead.

Victims?

At times. My people say they are rebuilding what was lost to them. Searching for you. To them you are the lost one. That is why they came to you in the dream. Your sister and wife. They need you to find something lost from them. Some pain they are carrying brings them to you. It is hard for me to explain. They have all the answers.

This is crazy—

I believe. The way you believe in La Virgen. I believe in this world. And so will you. You will see. They;’ve chosen you. That much is certain. This world wouldn’t be the way it is without them.

My world. You mean my horse and my work. This world is harsh and cold—diseased and filled with struggle. Winters that out last wood piles. My sister’s lives were cut short from disease—

It would be worse without them supporting, Cowboy. Trust me. They hold this world support her. They hold the mountain up. The seasons blow in on their voices and breathe and work. The horses muscle comes from their muscle—the muscle of all dead mustangs and geldings your people have worked into the ground. Thoughtlessly worked or hurt during your Charro ceremonies. The children of this world laugh and sing their games and songs because of lost children. It all builds off one another. They are the hidden hands of this world.

I don’t know what you say—

Think of it this way. Winter kills for others to be reborn in the spring. You see that don’t you? The balance of season’s changing. It is like that to us. They pull it all into being The Otherworlds make it all so.

How many worlds are there Two Bears?

There are four that belong to my people. But there is one for each of us. This is your Otherworld. I am just a visitor.

What about your wife? You’re leaving her behind to follow me.

She lives for me. And I live for her. But she believes as I believe and she will wait. As I have waited for her. She knows it is important to convince those who do not believe. You could not do this alone.

Why me?

You have the build. The holy men said so. Don’t you remember? They see and now so must you.

I am not your kind.

That doesn’t matter. You’ve seen so much as it is. You cannot deny. And we are all each other’s kind, Charro. Those constructions of differences are ours to give from this world. We can take them back if we decide. Do not look at where the world stops off. But where the next begins. You will see.

thurs free writing

I’ve been wanting to type out some free writing I’ve had down in my notebook for a while. I started with some dialogue relating to this ‘House of Two Bears” story I wrote years back. I’ve been wanting so badly to get back to this story and break it open into a wider story. And recently an idea came late at night—some notes I wrote down while half asleep into an email on my Blackberry.

This is what I wrote: It’s a way out of whatever awful life you’ve come to find yourself in.

Odd sentence but I imagine Two Bears is leading Santiago into another world—a world of dreams and of the unconscious. The Hopi religious view of four sustained worlds their people have emigrated out of into this world. Something like that. And I forgot about it until I was going over some student emails on my phone. I’ve wanted to get back into the fictive space of Santiago and Two Bears but I’ve had some problems. I’ve been reading Bradbury and Frank Waters and have wanted to bring these two sources together for a while but just the other day the characters started talking to me again. No idea what this little exercise means but it felt good to get down some dialogue:

Santiago. Cowboy. Think of it as a doorway out of the painful life you find yourself in. A world where nothing is hidden from you. The dead walk amongst us and where we must face our most fearsome outcomes. A spirit world that supports this world—holds this world. You don’t really believe you have nothing to hide from this world do you? You are not a foolish man. This I trust.

What else will I find your people’s world? Santiago asks.

What is lost to you in this world, Charro.

Dead people?

Living people. Ones lost to you. Family Friends. Those that are just dead meat and buried to you. Here they are not buried. They live and breathe. They tell secrets and know nothing of your world lost to them. They are at peace and travelling—always travelling on our thoughts and whispers. The see lies and truths. Truths forgotten and dead.

Victims?

At times. My people say they are rebuilding what was lost to them. Searching for you. To them you are the lost one. That is why they came to you in the dream. Your sister and wife. They need you to find something lost from them. Some pain they are carrying brings them to you. It is hard for me to explain. They have all the answers.

This is crazy—

I believe. The way you believe in La Virgen. I believe in this world. And so will you. You will see. They;’ve chosen you. That much is certain. This world wouldn’t be the way it is without them.

My world. You mean my horse and my work. This world is harsh and cold—diseased and filled with struggle. Winters that out last wood piles. My sister’s lives were cut short from disease—

It would be worse without them supporting, Cowboy. Trust me. They hold this world support her. They hold the mountain up. The seasons blow in on their voices and breathe and work. The horses muscle comes from their muscle—the muscle of all dead mustangs and geldings your people have worked into the ground. Thoughtlessly worked or hurt during your Charro ceremonies. The children of this world laugh and sing their games and songs because of lost children. It all builds off one another. They are the hidden hands of this world.

I don’t know what you say—

Think of it this way. Winter kills for others to be reborn in the spring. You see that don’t you? The balance of season’s changing. It is like that to us. They pull it all into being The Otherworlds make it all so.

How many worlds are there Two Bears?

There are four that belong to my people. But there is one for each of us. This is your Otherworld. I am just a visitor.

What about your wife? You’re leaving her behind to follow me.

She lives for me. And I live for her. But she believes as I believe and she will wait. As I have waited for her. She knows it is important to convince those who do not believe. You could not do this alone.

Why me?

You have the build. The holy men said so. Don’t you remember? They see and now so must you.

I am not your kind.

That doesn’t matter. You’ve seen so much as it is. You cannot deny. And we are all each other’s kind, Charro. Those constructions of differences are ours to give from this world. We can take them back if we decide. Do not look at where the world stops off. But where the next begins and you will see.

(Note: I still need to have some anxiety element from Santiago so that Two Bears will follow him/chase after him closer to four corners area while Santiago struggles with this idea. Perhaps Two Bears follows him and then Santiago drinks himself into a horse riding accident and Two Bears saves him. What would Two Bears and Santiago find in another world of the Hopi? Utes still living in Colorado in peace instead of kicked out. Santiago’s wife and sister alive to answer questions. Grandfathers and Fathers and all types of family to answer questions. Perhaps something dark concerning the death of his sister. Something like that.)

notes on spanglish

Isis Artze–contributing writer to The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education–and her article “Spanglish is Here to Stay” obviously have a similar point of view to Ilan Stavans’ article I studied yesterday morning. She writes it is here to stay and needs attention. She also quotes from Stavans’ article and calls him the foremost scholar on the “linguistic phenomenon” of Spanglish–good to know–and agrees with him that Spanglish is closer to Yiddish than Ebonics, describing Yiddish as more “regional varieties”  of language. I was also interested in her writing that Spanglish has reached a new status–she writes Stavans is teaching a course on the subject and publishing academically and also mentions a dictionary of Spanglish–also good to know. And both these writers seem to agree with Spanglish having attention also inevitably leads to anxiety and xenophobia. I was also interested to see another author giving much insight into opposing points of view–those scholars who disagree with Stavans. She quotes Roberto Gonzalez Echevarria, professor of comparative lit at Yale University, and also Ana Veciana-Suarez a Miami Herald columnist as both being in staunch opposition to Stavan and I guess my point of view. Glad to find opposing views…I should have more time to read these articles in a few days…

first spanglish article notes

This morning I’m reading “Spanglish: Tickling the Tongue” by Ilan Stavans. Ilan Stavans is a Professor of Spanish at Amherst College in Massachusetts and published this article in 2000. What interested me most about this article was Stavan’s focus on some background of language mixing and–the 150 year history–and his point of view which seems to be similar to mine. I particularly like the way he expresses how the languages in the Americans “cohabit promiscuously”. Yet he also points out opposing views and differing perspectives on mixing of Language–the main stream English point of view as well as the conservative/intelligentsia Latino point of view–the need for a common language. I like the idea that he also focuses on literature and how writing becomes the place where there is the most “experimentation”. He describes that there are many Spanglishes representing many writers and cultural communities. I also had no idea that the Spanglish movement as her refers to it again had so much history and also organized as somewhat of a crusade. I was particularly interested in the comparisons Stavan makes–compelling comparisons of Spanglish to Ebonics and Yiddish–comparisons to the Avant Garde of the Harlem Renaissance. Particularly I was interested in the comparison at the literary level of Yiddish and how Yiddish has become prominent to represent communities publicly and openly and also established by writers and poets. And again it seems Stavans sees Spanglish as fighting integration rather than a giving in to English–Latinos breaking the pattern of assimilation or the pattern of Eurocentric control. A more mutual acculturation and not a surrender. Spanglish as a “hybrid street register.”

the old folks and spanglish articles

I’ve been thinking more and more about Spanglish and why it feels so natural to write in a certain style–or speak in a certain style. I think I like Spanglish so much in the fiction because I am trying to capture the way the old folks spoke to me. I’m not trying to create something new or something of my generation though that is partly it I guess. Something essence rare. But the Abuelitos spoke in Spanglish. Simple as that. The old man said things like: I need to wash that old truckito, or That cabron pulled his pistola and nearly killed him, or he would say, I need to fill my thermos with some of that café your Abuelita has got there. Or get the stropajo and clean this shit up.

And I love the way they spoke–the cadence and the ease of tongue. It wasn’t Cervantes’ language and it wasn’t Langston Hughes’ but it was theirs and it was real. It became mine. And I want to breathe new life into the old folks in the fiction. Show you what it was like for me and how I further imagine it was for them. I want to represent as well as recreate the old folks.

And the other day I received a rejection letter from a publication I assumed was okay with Spanglish and Spanish idioms I use in my writing. I send so much work out. And after following the link sent to me to check the submission guidelines, I surmised that the criteria of English-only is what I violated. I can only guess. I met the deadline and the word count and the theme. Had to be the English. (Oh and I guess the strength of the writing.) And I’ve blogged about Spanglish before and my feelings on the importance of bilingual bi-cultural publications for bilingual bi-cultural writers. So today as my students wrote their formal essay assignment I researched a listing of articles on Spanglish. I was surprised as to what I found. And I’ve been thinking about writing about it. Here’s what I found and what I’ll be working on for a while with posts to follow:

“Spanglish: Tickling the Tongue” by Ilan Stavans

“Spanglish is Here to Stay” by Isis Artze

“bilingual wordplay: variations on a theme by hemingway and steinbeck” by Mimir Gladstein
 
 ?Que, que? Transculturation and Tato Laviera’s Spanglish poetics by Stephanie Alvarez Martinez

Demystifying Language Mixing: Spanglish in School by Peter Sayer

The Power of Theme and Language in Multi-Cultural Communities by Kathleen Kelly

On so-called Spanglish by Richard Otheguy and Nancy Stern

Spanglish”: The Language of Chicanos by Rosa Maria Jimenez 

friday sample schedule

I want to try something new on this blog. In the spirit of “time” issues we seem to deal with at my college, I want to give some sort of record as to what I do on a typical work day. I chose today because I just thought of this and also because we’ve been discussing time–in offices and also in a development day meetings. I’m not going to do it in order to document meetings with students–my personal notes do that. But I want to get some thoughts down for whoever might read this blog. Also I have been feeling I have more on this blog about writing than teaching, so this is my attempt to rectify that.

830: Arrive at my office and immediately type up my notes on “White Tigers” by Maxine Hong Kingston–read her work for about thirty or forty minuties or so in bed and had some thoughts but had no time last night. Discussion went well last class in discussing creative nonfiction and the question of women’s societal roles. Reminding me of the beauty of her work. Also had a student who didn’t have her book and wondering if he’ll have it today or borrow it from me today in office hours.

850: Head to office to pick up mail which usually consists of late assignments students drop off in my mailbox. I’ll have to find time to grade them quickly in order to return them to students by class time at 12 and 2. Also had a second to open a box which had my free copy of Norton Anthology of Latino Lit. I purchased the hardcover version and have it at home but glad to have a copy for my office. Still need to schedule a meeting with friend in Colorado to discuss this book.

9: Composition class time has been rescheduled to accommodate individual conferences. I’ll be sitting in my office and talking about revisions and research for the final formal assignment.

First discussion 9 to 920: Student’s questions on Sand Creek Massacre and primary materials. Interesting to see students interested in primary sources and relating them to the factual record. Student was upset over primary sources she found concerning Chivington and the American military’s attitude.

920 to 940 or so: Second conference today on subject of Columbus and primary sources. Told him to steal–not borrow from Howard Zinn–and perhaps find Washington Irving’s book or excerpts from Washington Irving’s book from the 1840’s.

940 to 10 or so: Wrote some emails/responded to 3 student emails over scheduling conference times and assigned topics. Wrote some emails to other composition coordinators on assessment form within Google Docs we might use.

10 to 1015: Walk-in instead of appointment. Lit student and I discussed Zoot Suit and idea of El Pachuco and what he might represent to the protagonist and also how student might organize his formal interpretation we’re writing in ethnic lit class next week.

1015 to 1025: Another conference over topic of Columbus and Washington Irving. I have three students from different sections writing on Columbus as Discoverer or America or Originator of the Transatlantic Slave Trade.

1025 to 1030: Went back to Form versus Meaning diagram I put together for Lit 113 and added a few thoughts on Kingston’s essay “White Tigers” and theme of contradicting messages on the role of women. Also had some time to buy a bottle of water and reread sections from “the Woman Warrior” and time to review my annotations for class. Also updated blogs for new appointments made through email.

1030 to 1040: Waited ten minutes for student who signed up for appointment. I hate it when they do that especially when I receive emails from students who want to make an appointment with a limited time schedule. Argh. Decided to run down to photocopy a handout for my lit class instead of sitting and waiting.

1045-1059: Responded to some emails. Heard word the D was a finalist for Master Teacher Award and also heard she was accepted to summer conference. Searched and found documents on my computer that I will review inc lass today–annotated bibliography assignment sheet, development of literary interpretation handout and also my literary trends chart.

11 to 1115: Spent time alphabetizing a stack of informal responses I hope to have the time to respond to before class time at 12 and also before class time at 2. Most likely will have to wait until Sat or Sun to return on Mon along with what I will receive today.

1115 to 1130: Another student no-show. more time to review essay for Lit 113 class at 12.

1130 to 1145 or so: Conference with student on Holocaust Denial and uses of primary materials to cover controversy.

12 to 1: Classroom time: Lecture on creative nonfiction and Kingston’s “White Tigers”. Review of annotated bibliography assignment. Interesting discussion about Kingston and feminism. Always surprised how young women hate the title of feminism and argue odd cultural arguments against feminism: I wear a bra or I am never offended by representation of women.

105 to 115 or so: Conference on textual analysis of Afghanistan War. Advised student to see what Afghani or afghan scholars primary sources have to say as opposed to American popular culture viewpoint.

115 to 125 or so: Filling out intercollegiate athletic forms for students in my Lit 111 course. Have to add up a few grades for grade checks.

125: Vending machine lunch/snack–chips.

130 to 145: Conference with student over Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp textual analysis paper.

145 to 2: Finish eating chips and gummy bears.

2 to 3: Lit 111 class time discussing postmodern themes in Palahniuk’s Fight Club as well as reviewing for In class essay assignment next week–also reviewing annotated bibliography and mla citations and the establishing of credentials within annotation. Also reviewed Gale Lit Crit Online and EBSCO database.

305 to 315: Respond to some questions via email and day about over.